After an unforseen overnight stop in the large city of Khorat due to bus snafus, I woke and quickly boarded a bus to the sleepy town of Phimai. Originally planning this visit to be another day trip, I regretfully checked into a dorm just to be able to explore without my backpack. After 20 minutes I realized this was a mistake as I had accomplished my visit’s purpose also immediately upon exiting the bus. I befriended a samlor driver who offered to bike me to Sai Ngam (“Area of the Splendid Banyans”) and then to my guest house for 60 baht. He was a kind enough old man with an endearing toothless grin, so I hopped in the back of the samlor, feeling awfully guilty the entire trip watching his muscles strain with every pedal.
Sai Ngam is the largest grouping of Banyan tress in Thailand. Walking under their huge intertwined umbrella of roots will not easily be forgotten. With every step, I was was humbled by the simple perfection of the tree. (In the book Wild Trees, about the amazing Redwoods, Richard Preston describes the crowns of Redwoods as the coral reefs to the sky. I love that.) There was a stone path through the maze of trunk that lead to a blind palm reader and his wife who were grossly overcharging. I opted instead to give them a small donation; let them hustle another stunned and captivated by the trees. But I regret that now. My palms are a creased criss-cross of river and delta; they’ve so much to say! Besides palm readings, old women sold the opportunity for luck and prosperity by releasing birds, turtles, fish, oysters and other such captured animals on display. I released two little birds for safe & convenient travels although I fear I released two little birds to be caught and caged again.
After the splendid Banyans, I arrived at my accommodations before noon, ready for a day of exploring. After the older matriarch of the house climbed two flights of stairs up to show me the dorm rooms, much to the pain of her swollen and stiff ankles afterwards, I felt obligated to accept the room even though a dorm across the street was half the price. Then she suckered me into a mediocre attempt at a vegetarian stir-fry composed of cucumber, lettuce and white rice! I am kidding; her efforts were well-appreciated and I ate through a smile. But I booked fast after the meal and found some more grub on the street: delicious fried coconut rice cakes. They temporarily fulfilled the longing for baked vegan goods that has been growing steadily. As I chomped down the little cakes I realized that besides the ancient ruins in the middle of town there was much else to this little town. I walked its entirety, in the unbearable humidity, in less than 45 minutes. Feeling a bit anxious, I killed time on the internet, within the frigid AC and gaming youths, and waited for it was appropriate to eat again. Tomorrow morning was another bus ride B-line out and onward, wrapping up week 5 in Thailand.